More flight attendant uniforms – and astronauts!

I decided to write another post about the Fashion in Flight exhibit on the history of flight attendant uniforms that was on display at the San Francisco International Airport – note the past tense – was. The exhibit closed last Sunday. I feel bad that I didn’t get around to blogging about it until the week before the exhibit closed (read my earlier post here). So here are a few more photos, plus a look at spacesuits because so many flight attendant uniforms of the 1960s were inspired by the astronauts of that era.

Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas
Braniff International Airways hostess in uniform by Emilio Pucci (1965)
Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas

This ensemble is part of a collection of designs designed by Emilio Pucci for Braniff International Airways. He called it “Gemini IV,” after NASA’s Gemini program, which was the precursor to the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the moon. Clearly this plastic helmet was a takeoff on astronaut headgear. It was worn for publicity photos and when greeting passengers before they got on a flight. Braniff liked to call its flight attendants “air hostesses.” (You can see more photos of this uniform in my previous post about Fashion in Flight. Note: The nice photos are courtesy of the SFO Museum or the airlines that loaned them the images or uniforms. The photos with glare are the ones I took at the exhibit. All the uniforms were behind glass and it was difficult to take a good photos.)

This flight attendant uniform made me curious about astronaut outfits so I decided to look for photos of NASA spacesuits on its website and Flickr page. (NASA is a U.S. government agency so their images don’t have copyright restrictions. Check out NASA’s Flickr album Astronauts.)

Here’s the very first group of U.S. astronauts, known as the Mercury 7. They were part of Project Mercury, NASA’s first program to get a man into space.

On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. Photo credit: NASA
On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
Photo credit: NASA

This publicity photo was taken in 1959 but they didn’t make it into space until 1961. It took all that time for NASA to figure out how to get a manned capsule into space and then several more months to determines how to orbit the Earth and land safely. One thing that this group of astronauts had in common with the flight attendants of the era is that they had to be of a certain weight and height because of the size of the capsule. (Check out this article “Women in the Skies,” on flight attendants, excerpted in Ms. magazine.)

Speaking of space flight, I’ve been reading Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures (affiliate link here), which is the inspiration for the film of the same title. If you read the book or see the film, you will be inspired by the stories of the incredible African-American women mathematicians behind the complex theoretical math calculations that helped make the space voyage possible. If you haven’t seen the film Hidden Figures, go see it!

Now check out this flight attendant uniform from the 1960s – note the silver fabric. Unfortunately, I didn’t note which airline had this uniform when I took this photo last month. The fabric has that astronaut sheen to it. 😉

1960s flight uniform

Here’s a spacesuit from 1966, part of the Gemini program. The neck makes me think of the 1960s funnel necks and more recent patterns such as  the Tilly and the Buttons Coco Top + Dress.

Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) Prime flight crew, Ed White and Jim McDivitt, at Pad 19. May 29, 1966
Gemini-Titan 4 Prime flight crew, Ed White and Jim McDivitt, at Pad 19. May 29, 1966 (NASA on the Commons, Flickr)

I found a fun video on the NASA website about spacesuits. After you watch the video, which is introduced by an avatar (you can skip the animated intro), you’ll see six versions of NASA spacesuits, from the shiny silver of the Mercury missions to the orange “pumpkin suit” and the most recent one designed for future space exploration.

Here’s the 1968 spacesuit design for the Apollo astronauts. Note the various valves on the torso of the suits.

Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. November 22, 1968 (NASA on the Commons)
Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. November 22, 1968 (NASA on the Commons, Flickr)

These ladies have a space-age look to them, too. I see spacesuit touches in their necklines and the round pocket opening seems inspired by the valves on the spacesuits, eh? This photo was also in the SFO Museum’s Fashion in Flight photo album for the exhibit.

Union de Transport Aériens stewardesses in uniforms by Pierre Cardin 1968 photograph Air France Collection.DR/Air France Museum Collection.
Union de Transport Aériens stewardesses in uniforms by Pierre Cardin (1968) photograph Air France Collection.DR/Air France Museum Collection.

The front round pocket is more of a design element than any practical use. I don’t know if you can fit your entire hand in it unless you have small hands. Here’s a look at the actual uniform in the exhibit (sorry for the glare).

Union de Transport Aériens - uniform designed by Pierre Cardin - 1968
Union de Transport Aériens – uniform designed by Pierre Cardin – 1968

Here’s a closer shot I took of the pocket. (Note the interesting topstitching at the waist. It’s quite a distance from the seam, isn’t it?)

Union de Transport Aériens - uniform designed by Pierre Cardin - 1968

Here’s the last of the 1960s photos I took. This 1968 polyester flight attendant uniform designed by Oleg Cassini for Air West and has a bit of “Starfleet Command” in it, according to the exhibit. I can definitely see that. (The original Star Trek series was on the air from 1966 to 1969.)

Air West 1968 uniform designed by Oleg Cassini
Air West 1968 uniform designed by Oleg Cassini

I hope you enjoyed this foray into 1960s fashion and astronauts!

You can see more photos of the flight attendant uniforms in Fashion in Flight on the SFO Museum website here.

Fashion in Flight at SFO – a history of airline uniforms

Braniff International Airways hostesses in uniforms by Emilio Pucci 1965 Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas [Fashion in Flight exhibit at SFO]
Braniff International Airways hostesses in uniforms by Emilio Pucci 1965 (Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas)

The exhibit “Fashion in Flight: A History of Airline Uniform Design,” is  currently on display at the SFO Museum in the international terminal of San Francisco International Airport until Sunday, January 8 (go to Departures, Level 3, pre-security). If you live in the Bay Area, it’s worth a trip to the airport to see this free show, which showcases uniforms from the 1930s to the present, including many created by fashion designers. My favorite uniforms were from the 1940s to the ’60s.

If you can’t get there, you can see some of the uniforms on the SFO Museum’s website here and in this post. I saw this exhibit last month with a Bay Area Sewists member and took a ton of photos. But it was tough to photograph most of the uniforms because they were in display cases behind glass and there was a lot of glare to contend with, as you can see in the photo below.

Fashion in Flight - outerwear

I was able to avoid some of the glare by putting my phone directly on the glass but that limited what got in the shot because I was so close to the mannequins. The ensembles are: TWA Poppy Orange duster raincoat and head covering; Braniff International Airways Gemini IV uniform, overcoat and bubble space helmet by Emilio Pucci; and Hughes Airwest hooded cloak in Sundance Yellow and Universe Blue.

Here’s my photo of the green coat and space bubble hat, taken with my phone on the glass. According to the info in the case, Emilio Pucci designed this outfit for Braniff International Airways. The coat is in “reversible absinthe and apricot” and has a “welted ring collar to meet the bubble space helmet,” which was made from Perspex thermoplastic acrylic. Apparently it was called a “rain dome” and its purpose was “to protect the wearer’s hairdo.”

Braniff International Airways Gemini IV uniform, overcoat and bubble space helmet,
Braniff International Airways overcoat and bubble space helmet designed by Emilio Pucci (1965)

However, the helmet was fragile and not exactly easy to store so it was only worn to greet passengers before they entered the plane and for publicity purposes, such as the first photo of this post. Look closely, the woman on the far right is wearing this coat and helmet.

I’m just going to include a few of my photos and the rest will be courtesy of the SFO Museum. You’ll know which ones they are because they will include photo credit information in the caption from the museum, plus they will be so much better than my photos!

This is one of the uniforms from the 1930s, which also had a hat to go with it. Sorry you can’t see all of the hat. It’s similar to the Transcontinental & Western Air uniform of 1939 worn by the ladies in the photo just below this one. I didn’t note the info on this uniform but it’s likely another version of the 1939 uniform but with welt pockets.

1930s airline uniform
Transcontinental & Western Air uniform

 

Transcontinental & Western Air hostesses 1939 Photo credit: SFO Museum/ TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
Transcontinental & Western Air hostesses 1939
(Photo credit: SFO Museum/ TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.)

Here’s a lovely “air hostess” uniform from the 1940s and comes with a matching hat. Transcontinental & Western Air was the precursor to Trans World Airlines, better known as TWA. (As you can tell, this photo is from the SFO Museum.)

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc. Photo credit: SFO Museum - Fashion in Flight exhibit at SFO
Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

Here’s a closer look at that jacket! Check out the princess seams, buttonholes and fish-eye waist darts.

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc. Photo credit: SFO Museum
Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer (1944)
Collection of SFO Museum
Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
Photo credit: SFO Museum

The 1950s also had some very nice tailoring. Here’s a 1955 TWA uniform designed by Oleg Cassini.

Trans World Airlines hostess uniform by Oleg Cassini 1955 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc. Photo credit: SFO Museum
Trans World Airlines hostess uniform by Oleg Cassini 1955
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

And no exhibit on flight attendant uniforms would be complete without one from Pam Am. There are lovely details on this uniform in “Fashion in Flight.”

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper 1959 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of Jane Luna Euler/Beatrice H. Springer/John J. Dunne Photo credit: SFO Museum
Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper 1959
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Jane Luna Euler/Beatrice H. Springer/John J. Dunne
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

The ’60s had some wildly varying looks. The early ’60s still had some of the elegance of the 1950s. I like this Air France uniform by Christian Dior. I love cropped jackets and A-line skirts.

Air France uniform by Christian Dior (courtesy of Air France)
Air France uniform by Christian Dior (1963)

And then uniforms got a bit more colorful. Check out those boots!

Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci 1966 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of Sandra C. A. Thomas in memory of Anne Karin Walker Photo credit: SFO Museum [Fashion in Flight exhibit at SFO]
Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci 1966
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Sandra C. A. Thomas in memory of Anne Karin Walker
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)
Northwest Orient Airlines 1967)
Northwest Orient Airlines 1967

 

United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis (1968)
United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis (1968)

As you may know, Jean Louis was a Hollywood costume designer. You’ll see his name in many film credits, oftentimes the credit will be “Gowns by Jean Louis.” He’s famous for designing Rita Hayworth’s black strapless gown in the 1946 film Gilda. And he was the costume designer for classic films such as From Here to Eternity (1953) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958).

United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis 1968 Fashionaire, a Division of Hart, Schaffner & Marx Hat by Mae Hanauer Collection of SFO Museum Gift of United Airlines Historical Foundation Hat insignia: Gift of Georgia Panter Nielsen Photo credit: SFO Museum
United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis 1968
Fashionaire, a Division of Hart, Schaffner & Marx
Hat by Mae Hanauer, Collection of SFO Museum, gift of United Airlines Historical Foundation, hat insignia: Gift of Georgia Panter Nielsen
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

I love this uniform. Doesn’t she look happy to wear it?

United Air Lines stewardess in uniform by Jean Louis 1968 Photo credit: United Airlines Archive
United Air Lines stewardess in uniform by Jean Louis 1968
(Photo credit: United Airlines Archive)

This Air France uniform was designed by Balenciaga.

Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga 1969 Courtesy of Air France Photo credit: SFO Museum
Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga 1969
Courtesy of Air France
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

Uniforms seemed to get more casual in the ’70s. This is a photo I took of the photo on display and of the uniform. The jackets are made from synthetic leather and came in pale pink, red and powder blue. I was surprised to see such casual jackets in “Fashion in Flight.”

Union de Transport Aeeriens uniform designed by André Courréges 1973)
Union de Transport Aeeriens uniform designed by André Courréges (1973)

This is a fun micro mini-dress that was worn with red shorts.

Pacific Southwest Airlines 1973 - micro mini dress worn with red shorts
Pacific Southwest Airlines 1973 – micro mini dress

The 1980s were not so interesting. Check out this uniform designed by Yves St. Laurent for Quantas, which seems rather dowdy and dated now.

Qantas Airways female flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent 1986 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of Suzanne de Monchaux Photo credit: SFO Museum
Qantas Airways female flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent 1986
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Suzanne de Monchaux
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

I’ll end with a look at some of the shoes on display. These were the official shoes worn with various uniforms.

Shoes worn by flight attendants - Fashion in Flight exhibit - SFO Museum

The black shoe is an oxford from the 1030s. The spectator pumps are from the 1950s. No. 2 is a TWA shoe from 1955 and No. 3 was worn by United Air Lines stewardesses in 1957. The kitten heel shoe is from the 1980s and was worn with the Eastern Air Lines uniform.

What’s your favorite fashion decade?

If you do make it out to SFO to see “Fashion in Flight,” I recommend looking at the work chronologically. The older uniforms are in several display cases in the international terminal. Then there’s a museum room with more recent uniforms on display.

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper 1959 Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Jane Luna Euler/Beatrice H. Springer/John J. Dunne (Photo credit: SFO Museum)